Thursday, May 24, 2012

London dives into Games-related trouble

Of course it's not the Games itself that's the problem (well no more than any other capitalist-realist entertainment vehicle), it's the massive, £9bn-plus investment that we can't afford (but only benefits the already overprivileged capital), the hike in property values and rent that puts even more people at risk, the war footing that is deemed necessary (residents of Blackheath, Bow flats and Oxlea Woods were never consulted), the general ratcheting up of security. Sculptural folly and architectural infantilism (not just in E15). Brand new parks that no one is yet allowed into, that offer no hint of the industrial area that came before, And with the the fucking Jubilee coming in the same year, it's the whole upsurge in Keep Drugged and Enjoy the Spectacle folksy denial, by the only groups who are allowed anywhere near the Stratford site - vetted members of the day-tripping middle class who can afford the rip-off. When such disproportionate efforts go into ensuring athletes can do a bit of track 'n field, you know something's not right. With all that on the tab for IhateSebastian Coe's project, expect protest.

Enjoy the Games!

Artwork was spotted on Park Street, Bankside, SE1, on the walls of another costly and exclusive development. If I've got the right artist, see more of their art here.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Brave face to Crazy face – the Manchester miracle

It was Michael Thomas at Anfield, Utd’s flukey comeback in ’99 and Paul Dickov’s Gillingham scream all rolled by Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero into one even more stupefying moment. Doing it that way shut people up about buying the title, if only for a few days. It was bought, but in the mass communal embrace as he scored and then on full time the experience was in no way cheapened. It was so deranged that I already can’t remember my own view of it and am relying on the Match of the Day footage for regular hits.

The problem professional football’s detractors have is that it gets objectively more entertaining the more filthy lucre goes into it. People have hated the excessive branding and omni-coverage of the premiership era while loving the rise in quality. Fans hate the soul-less modern stadia but that sense of sterilisation is double-edged: endearing but hapless pissheads have been replaced with highly trained, extremely fit and often foreign professionals with their eyes on the prize. Most are not likely to alienate themselves from the aesthetic pleasures of the game while it keeps being this exciting. So football still remains inoculated from the financial implosion all around us, the cashflow the leisure industry generates run separate to the funds of traditional markets and we hope stay immune to it.

But we bought it. Oh yes. Like the doddery old twat said. Or, rather, we bought the players to build towards it. Or rather, with our new ground, rock-solid fanbase, and a huge swath of east Manchester ripe for regeneration, we were an ‘attractive investment proposition’ given a chance to challenge the anti-competitive cartel practices of the champions league ‘big four’ (UEFA realised they preferred the old way which they’ll attempt to return to via FFP). At times it was unseemly – Garry Cook’s Kaka farce, Hughes’ splurge, Robinho’s disinterest, the sheer pace of it all – but we were just fully entering the spirit of the cash-rich premier era. Money talks. Hypocrites walk. Goodbye wilderness.

City fans didn’t care too much about that anyway. We’d had decades of twin horror. We’d not only witnessed depressing mediocrity at the theatres of base comedy, but we also had to stomach all the success bought with considerable cash and considerable amounts of Fergie Time, and enjoyed by the insufferable Red Army (cash and trophies hadn’t ruined them in this regard; they were always like that). But as Andy Hinchcliffe said on Monday, we’d perversely got more loyal, more mad for it as the club’s prestige ebbed away in the dark days, so we’d be damned if we were going to pass up the chance to become one of the big boys again. So ‘principle’ was put to one side. If ever a club’s fans had earned their deus ex machina, it was us.

We go on about post-industrial decline and the destruction of community in old heartlands like east Manchester, yet it’s football clubs that still provide a community. In the seats near me belligerent working men sit next to 75 year old ladies in sky blue wigs and comfy Cheshire types, all different but unified under the banner of City. The players may not be from the area but the fans still are. The healthier the club the happier huge swathes of the city and region. Whatever United do proportionally resonates far more beyond the region; at our place that upsurge is far less diluted. You admire grassroots movements being run or rescued by supporters but the small-scale model cannot apply to a club that still holds the record attendance outside Wembley and is the forum for so many people’s hopes and dreams.

And the shock of intervention / takeover has started a roundabout process that is making things more localised; this bit of east Manchester is getting the attention and investment it had been denied for decades; of course it should be led by the state but their big idea was to put a life-sapping casino there. Soon the club’s star players will again be Mancunians, but the plans are also about education, health and prospects as well as a football academy.

It’s not all panegyrics. The related problem of football being driven by the always-recorded spectacle is that other things like morality get left by the wayside and moronic behavour proliferates, a big turnoff. Soon after the ecstasy, we’ve already seen the twatty side of football that turns people off; Ferguson’s ‘100 years’ comment, Tevez’s RIP riposte, Nasri’s dig at the team he left behind, Bobby Charlton ‘resting easy’ about City’s rise (yeah right!). Nothing can be celebrated for its own sake. That’s the kind of playground climate we live in. So yeah, City ‘bought’ into all this, the rough and smooth of success, but we do so with few qualms.

It’s two games with QPR, fourteen years apart, that show me most of all why it still matters despite everything. In 1998, after the keeper Margetson had let a soft one in then Pollock had chipped their striker to head into his own net and effectively relegate Manchester City to the third tier for the first time ever, I saw and was part of a defiant, uplifting singalong reaction in the Gardeners pub in Victory Street, Moss Side. We may have been going down but we weren’t going away. Then on Sunday 13 May 2012 we stopped choking, scored twice in added time, stuck it to Cityitis again (having delivered the first blows last year) and let the delirium begin.

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